Incredible choreography is one thing that sets K-Pop apart from other pop scenes around the world. However, contrary to popular belief, choreography isn’t just restricted to the music industry in Korea—it’s also part of the movie industry. What many people don’t know is that popular zombie films like Train to Busan and #Alive are choreographed just like K-Pop is.
The Korean zombie trend has been sweeping the nation lately. Period zombie drama Kingdom has become one of the most popular shows on Netflix, while #Alive recently attracted 1.7 million theatergoers in just three weeks. And just like with K-Pop, one of the things that makes Korean zombie media so much more engaging than its competitors is awesome choreography.
The way zombies move can make or break a drama or movie’s vibe, so directors have been employing dance choreographers to make sure their zombies are as spine-chilling as possible.
Contemporary dancer Ye Hyo Seung was at the forefront of zombie moves for #Alive. He majored in modern dance as a student, performing in Belgium, France, and even at the winter Olympics.
Ye Hyo Seung had never choreographed zombies before, but the movie’s lead actor Yoo Ah In recommended him to the director after seeing his dance style.
In a recent interview, Ye revealed that most of his time was spent designing a sequence of movements of Sang Chul, a character who becomes a zombie over the course of the movie.
Shiver, stretch hands forward, bend legs, bend the upper body, grab the door handle, shiver more violently….
— Ye Hyo Seung
Ye Hyo Seung says that the first move is the most important. Without a great first move, the audience won’t be able to immerse themselves deeply into the plot, and the movie won’t be as emotionally gripping. He went on to say that breath control is the key to great zombie choreography.
First, [your] breath becomes heavy as if abnormal cells collide in the body. Then the body shakes more violently, and at the final stage, the body twists abnormally. Only when every zombie follows these movements in order, does this process look natural.
— Ye Hyo Seung
Every core infected zombie character in #Alive had to train for a month to embody their zombie movement perfectly. Some zombies in the movie are violent while others are vulnerable, so Ye Hyo Seung had to take these specifics into account when designing movements.
And Ye Hyo Seung isn’t the first choreographer to design movements for zombie movies. Park Jae In and Jeon Young choreographed the creatures in Train to Busan, the movie’s sequel Peninsula, and Kingdom.